What matters is how you handle it a.k.a. A guide to ethical breeders and breeding by Fang

15 May

I’ve had this written for a little while but was waiting on results to post it mainly to avoid the rush of questions directed to my breeder before full tests were done. They’re finished, so now I’ll share.


As I’m sure most of you have realized from my incessant blathering, last week I picked up my new Australian Cattle Dog puppy. Some of the more astute among you may have noticed that


This Puppy

Thing One

And This Puppy


Are not the same puppy.

I’ve had the same list of ACD breeders since I was 18 and my puppy has come from one of them. The parents of the litter were fully health tested from solid, healthy and sane pedigrees. It wasn’t an impulse decision. This wasn’t from some puppy-mill in the boondocks breeding any kind-of cattle dog-looking thing that happened to have the right parts, and still the unthinkable happened. A freak genetic mutation that is currently untestable, random and for a disorder virtually unknown in the breed killed not just one, but two boys in the litter. Through all this I’ve realized some things and I think it’s important to share.


A Good Breeder and an Ethical Breeder are not always the same thing

It's hit or miss.

It’s hit or miss.


Good breeders do the health testing. They produce nice dogs of their breed. The keep the dogs in good condition, and usually do *something* with their animals be it show, performance or real-life work etc. They do their best to sell puppies to appropriate homes and they’ll take back puppies who don’t work out. Ethical breeders do all that, and are unfailingly honest about problems that arise in their lines with their buyers. Using my Malinois as an example, I know the issues in his lines back through his grandmother. When a cancer diagnosis came up in his maternal line’s grandmother (At 15, so really not surprising) I had a phone-call within a day. While it helps that I am friends with his breeder, she called and informed puppy buyers from years earlier of the condition that may have had a genetic component. When M’s mama died suddenly and unexpectedly at her co-owner’s home, it was my breeder who called all of her puppy owners to let them know what had happened. The new mini-beast’s breeder notified the functional entirety of the Cattle Dog community as soon as results were finally finished and I knew before the boys had even been euthanized. It’s not an easy thing to do and the sense of personal responsibility for an ethical breeder is crushing. They have no other choice but to do the right thing.


The health and integrity of the breed matters more than personal gain or reputation.

So that means I can be an asshole. Awesome.

My cat thinks I’m an asshole, so Awesome! You look stupid in that hat.

People are assholes. Breed people can be majorly gossipy nasty assholes particularly when personal dislike comes into play. Sharing findings that help the breed and excluding dogs who will do harm to the breed in the long run is the duty of an ethical breeder. That should be an obvious conclusion, but out of fear of a witch-hunt or just generally sloppy morality many breeders keep silent inadvertently hurting the thing they’re supposed to love. My big question to them continues to be, ‘To what end?”. What is the point of keeping quiet on issues when sharing your knowledge of your own lines can only help others in the long run.

 Good breeders want to know what you’re up to.

I have less than 100 Facebook friends and 50% of them are only there because I can't delete them without drama.

I have less than 100 Facebook friends and 50% of them are only there because I can’t delete them.

I actively detest the phone. A university job in telephone support pretty much ensured that if my phone rings, I reflexively cringe and try to think if I have a reasonable excuse for not answering. That being said, 90% of my current phone bill is from talking to my Malinois’ breeder. We’ve gotten to be good friends and it keeps me in the more immediate loop of happenings with my dog’s relatives. My Facebook feed is so littered with mini-beast pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m just being humored at this point with likes and comments but the simple act of giving a damn about puppies already out there speaks volumes about the quality of the breeder.

Bad stuff still happens to good and ethical breeders

Inevitable, really.

Inevitable, really.

…And there’s nothing you can do about it. Freak occurrences, accidents, genetic anomalies, all of it is unpredictable, sucky and being prepared for the worst does nothing to shake the shock of it happening to you. What matters and what will matter in the long-term is what you do with that knowledge. While I will probably always be a little bit sad over what happened, the “what if” alone is kind of heartbreaking, but even a little shift in the wind could have drastically expanded the problem to encompass the entire breed. The death of the boys was a tragedy for my breeder, but they saved many people much greater heartache in the long-term. There’s honor in that.

For me the heartache (A fraction of what my breeder must have gone through) was ameliorated by the arrival of Miss T-Beast, aka Tantrum, the sister and littermate of the boys. While she is likely clear of the disorder/mutation, as her blood ratios would suggest the lack of a real clear/carrier/affected test means Tantrum is likely the end of her maternal line. I am personally hopeful for a definitive test to identify carriers and clears be developed but research being what it is, the likelihood is small.

Next Best Puppy

Next Best Puppy

Miss T-beast is sassy and sweet and currently yelling at me from her prison (a.k.a. crate) while I try to keep her out of the cord bank at work. I’m grateful to have her for her own sake, and not just as a replacement for the boy who was lost. She’s more than a silver lining and thinking of her as one is a disservice to both her and the boys.

So we’ll carry on a little more scratched up due to puppy teeth. and a little more hearing impaired from puppy shrieking and with the memory that it’s all far too fleeting.

The New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is the go-to place for testing blood disorders in dogs. We get asked pretty regularly about donations and places we’d recommend giving and most veterinary hospital supported labs are a good place to start.

27 Responses to “What matters is how you handle it a.k.a. A guide to ethical breeders and breeding by Fang”

  1. All Things Collie May 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Another great post, hopefully people will appreciate her honesty. It’s hard when people act petty and jealous and use these misfortunes to blacken a breeders name.

  2. falnfenix May 15, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    it’s interesting how people seem to forget that puppies are living things, and as such you cannot absolutely guarantee their health. when something genetic pops up, people LOSE THEIR COLLECTIVE SHIT without trying to take an objective approach. i think this is why so many “good” breeders are reluctant to share information about problems potentially produced by their breeding animals.

    • falnfenix May 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      and i realize i forgot to mention my experience with this sort of situation.

      i had a puppy for 8 months. he was the smallest in the litter, but he quickly caught up to his siblings in size. at 10.5 months, he was euthed due to something from which he would not recover. while the hospitals we visited said there’s no way it could have been genetic, our breeder never bred those two animals again, and has had full disclosure for any person interested in any puppies from either the dog or the bitch. she has all the documentation from the university that made the final determination. she’s also let everyone know who had a pup from our litter, just in case something happens, so everyone knows to get things checked from time to time.

      our breeder is relatively new to breeding (she’s been a breeder for 5 years) but isn’t new to the breed (i believe she has 20 years under her belt). she could hide this information but she’d rather be honest. i respect her for that.

  3. casdog1 May 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    I am so impressed with her honesty & integrity.

    • TheDogSnobs May 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Considering it could have never been mentioned with zero effect on the rest of the breed given the outcomes, but it was announced, explained and even further explained, I think it’s a good lesson in the right thing to do.

  4. Kim May 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    I am glad your breeder ‘did the right thing’, as in the long run had she/he not, so many people (and dogs) would have suffered needlessly. I lost a wonderful dog several years ago to cancer. My breeder had never had cancer in her lines in the past (when I first asked for a pup from her that was my first question). Life happens, I understand that, diseases have to start somewhere and as it turns out it was with the pairing of my dog’s parents (which was never repeated), 3 pups did not live past the age of 9 years. The breeder was the first person I contacted when the diagnosis came in just as a heads up, I wasn’t looking for any type of compensation, I just felt the breeder needed to know. I kept in contact as treatments progressed with everyone that I knew of that had a littermate to my dog. What disappointed me the most was the only response I ever heard from my breeder was to let me know pups were available (even while my dog was still alive). My breeder never once even emailed to ask how my dog was doing. Bad people skills or just not really an ethical breeder? I still haven’t decided.

  5. maxwellthedog May 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    The puppy in the first photo has a bone across his chest!

    • April meyer May 18, 2014 at 4:49 am #

      I noticed that too. So cute

  6. Caryl Ricca May 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    I lost a Border Colllie to epilepsy, the first known case from that breeder. I didn’t keep my mouth shut about it. That breeder has produced at least two epileptic dogs since that time and my deceased dog’s photos and information were removed from her website. Completely different experience from yours…

    • TheDogSnobs May 15, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

      I’m so sorry. 😦 People can be weird about their dogs, but as a breeder she should have been held to a higher standard that includes honesty about the dogs she’s producing.

  7. allison schultz May 15, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    May I share this on a spinone breeders closed group?


    Sent from my iPad


  8. Katewerk (@katewerk) May 15, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    What was the disorder?

  9. The Profane Dog Trainer May 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    That’s tragic. But good on your breeder, that’s the way to do it.

  10. Catherine Duke May 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    What a hard thing for both of you, and the pups. An old acquaintance of mine researched breeders carefully and eventually got an Aussie from excellent working lines with extensive health testing way up the pedigree. Due to a fluke of genetics, her pup wound up severely dysplastic before he was a year old.

    The breeder was much like the one T-beast is from; she contacted the owners of other dogs from the line, and then paid for my friend’s dog to have surgery once he was ready for it, and offered her another puppy down the line. He will never be the agility dog she’d been hoping for, but he is an excellent dog who fits into her family perfectly.

    I can only hope that my careful research pays off so well when I find the breeder for my next dog.

  11. Vicki Smith May 15, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    To me, there’s information missing. One: what exactly was the genetic disease? Two: were the puppies put down because they were sick – or because they might be bred? There’s a difference!

    • TheDogSnobs May 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

      I’m not interested in entertaining armchair quarterbacking of the decision, so missing information remains missing. If you need to know, you’re likely friendly or already acquainted with the breeder otherwise it’s superfluous to the discussion.

      One: Not relevant.
      Two: It would have been inhumane and painful for the boys to live with the condition.The asinine implication for the latter is pretty insulting. It wasn’t a ridgeless ridgeback or a freak bobtail situation, they were humanely euthanized with the other alternative being a lifetime of pain, vet visits and likely nasty death.

      • Mel Carlin July 14, 2015 at 2:57 am #

        Hey! Most ethical Ridgeback breeders don’t euthanize ridgeless anymore – we “cull” by spay neuter…

  12. Blueberry's human May 15, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    I applaud the breeder for full disclosure!

    I have a cattle dog mix I adopted from a rescue that ended up in rescue with 7 of her puppies. When I found out at her first vet appointment a week after I adopted her that she had hip dysplasia I immediately contacted the rescue to let them know so they could then let the 6 homes her puppies went to know it was a possibility for them. I don’t believe she ever did or didn’t seem to see the point of it. I did end up finding one of the puppies (#7) that ended up relocated to another rescue and contacted them myself and let them know of the potential for hip dysplasia. While I realize it isn’t life threatening – I figured the other adopters of her puppies would want to know.

  13. Darcy May 16, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Very, very sad and painful for you and the breeder. I am so sorry.. The breeder deserves a lot of credit for being so responsible. The notion of personal responsibility has been so bastardized that many don’t even know what it means… This breeder knows what it means. They took a very hard road, but, alas, the right one… He some comfort is in doing “right”…

  14. Julie May 16, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    Bless you and your girl-pup.

  15. Diana B. May 16, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    We have had a similar conversations in my breed of late and were lucky enough that a genetic test for a recessive, devastating disease was found before more affected pups were unknowingly produced. Sadly I have seen ethical breeders get ripped apart time and again. Seems like the more successful the breeder or bloodline, the more vicious the tear down. A timely reminder indeed. Do you mind if I share it with a closed Schnauzer breeder group?

  16. Jen P May 16, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I must start by saying “thank you” for YOUR being open about the fact that, yes there are genetic problems that crop up in even responsibly bred dogs- typically every dog ever born carries for at least 7 different genetic defects (on average of course- some more, some less- but not a one without any!). Open/honest/ethical breeders will share a genetic pedigree with their puppy buyers & for stud services; giving the buyers an opportunity to be aware and what to watch for in their dogs– even being able to save their pup suffering if they do become affected with “x” disorder through early intervention and treatment. The same breeders will make every effort to NOT breed their (even suspected) defect carrier to another carrying the same defect, consciously attempting to produce healthier offspring.
    For those interested, “The Control of Canine Genetic Diseases” by Dr George Padgett is an excellent read on how to breed healthier dogs, and has an extensive reference section with a thorough list of the diseases carried by many dog breeds.
    And, a shameless plug for those who are really interested in canine genetics and genetic disease control, please visit the White Shepherd Genetics Project (WSGP) at: http://www.wsgenetics.com People from any & all breeds are welcome to visit; we also have a yahoo group for discussion that has people from worldwide and across many breeds, some of whom have used “The Project” as their model to start a database for their own breeds. 🙂
    It is a difficult thing for any breeder to say that their great so-and-so dog (or bitch) was a bad mix for their breeding program, no doubt! Others will gossip & bash about “x” defect so-and-so produces/ed regardless of if the breeder talks about it or not, guaranteed! But, in the cases where the owner/ breeder freely admits it all, at least there’s less fuel for the peanut gallery to burn… “And she/he won’t even admit what so-and-so is producing”… Who hasn’t heard that and being in dogs!?! Breeders-save yourselves the trouble and humiliation. With open & honest reporting on what’s in your pedigrees we can hold our heads high knowing we’re truly acting as stewards to preserve our chosen breed. Owners- only buy from breeders who guarantee their “product” in writing, and with a warranty YOU can live with if something DOES happen!
    Not sorry for ranting but thanks for listening… Now go visit The Project!

  17. DJ May 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    My six year old Aussie was diagnosed last year with degenerative spinal issues – his whole spine – shoulders to tail are collapsing and his prognosis is not good. The vet called it congenital – could be genetic or something that occurred when his mom was pregnant with him. I contacted my breeder and her response was that she’d never had it occur before and that was it. No interest in follow up or in contacting the rest of the litter. Very painful experience. I love my dog and am doing everything I can – acupuncture, herbs, and drugs (sadly) to let him live as long as is humane.

  18. Mel Carlin July 14, 2015 at 3:05 am #

    Sigh, then there are the breeders who don’t admit their dog produces a defect, and when presented with a genetic test which could “clear” descendants claims she cannot afford to test the dog she is offering at public stud…

  19. Rosemary July 19, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    To get back to ethical breeders, I chose the breeder of my present and previous ACDs because back in the days when no one would admit to having PRA in their lines, she announced publicly that her dog, a National Specialty Best in Show winner, had developed PRA. That took guts and a desire to do what is best for the breed. We now have a DNA test for the two types of PRA in ACDs and she was among those instrumental in supporting their development.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: